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Kerosene Reigns

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Beneath a world-ending threat, Galo supposed he should be feeling a rush of terror, seizing pain as he met his end- anything that would match the tone of the brutal scuffle that had brought him to the ground. His chest heaved, mouth agonizingly dry as the toned man couldn’t so much as twitch a muscle to escape his foe’s uncompromising grip. Each clawed finger had encircled his bare wrists, and Galo could feel the blazing hellfire under the thick armor, the barrier serving to be his only protection from the blistering heat beneath the obsidian suit. He had been beaten. Only narrowly, but this was a defeat- yet the dread that ran through him wasn’t concerning his demise, but the fact that he had lost. It held an unknown connotation that he couldn’t speak to, the way his sore body shivered and tensed as the masked helm tilted as if it was assessing him.

He had gone in alone. Thinking he had the drop on a prime Burnish target, it seemed like a fantastic idea at the time. Now, after a long and horrible scuffle, he was on a rooftop, no backup, no protective gear, and sure as hell was lacking luck since his enemy had him supine flat on his back.

He couldn’t tear his eyes off the fanged maw that hung directly above, the gleaming white teeth made all the more apparent set against the abyssal hide. The sound of hissing steam reached Galo’s ears before he saw it escaping between the jagged fangs, then finally felt the scorching cloud against his bare skin. Refusing to flinch, the man gritted his teeth and faced his opponent- refusing to shrink back against the burning onslaught. The sound it made was similar to a rattling exhale, something deep in its chest whirring before the steam stopped...and it inhaled instead. The sharp rush of air could be felt, and Galo could swear the limited oxygen that only filled a minuscule portion of his lungs rushed out in turn as the figure pressed it’s head closer.

Where the armor ended and organic flesh began, Galo had no clue. The biology of the Burnish wasn’t common knowledge, and Mad Burnish specimens were...well. Not apprehended. That led to no field briefings in regards to dealing with the rare beings other than avoiding getting singed to hell and back. He swore the hands that enriched his wrist had a certain of fleshly give, but the claws that capped off each finger were wickedly sharp- weapons in their own right. It’s movements now seemed all too slow, agonizingly so after their break-neck pace exchange of blows.

The anticipation was strange. He was expecting to be turned to ash or snapped in two but his stomach still twisted with the adrenaline of combat, each inch of his body throbbing in time with an erratic pulse that refused to settle. As if Galo had voiced his concern out loud, the helmed head pressed against his neck and nosing against his carotid artery. His heart rate leaped as the blistering heat made contact, the slow sound of air passing through the front of the ‘mask’ as it inhaled all the more apparent as it settled itself right underneath his ear.

Galo‘s face reddened, a growing sheen of sweat building on his brow. The sheer heat that radiated from the form that had him pinned was steadily causing his body temperature to rise, a heated fever that made his eyelids droop heavily as he panted for air. The Mad Burnish’s advanced didn’t stop, clawed fingers digging into his wrists as it pressed more of its weight downward. The barrel of the other’s chest pressed against his, the torrid temperature at it’s worst when the Burnish was flush against him.

A low, trilling click that he felt before he heard made Galo stiffen, realizing what he had assumed to be a mere mask had opened ever so slightly, a glowing phosphorus green tongue darting out only to flick at the air before vanishing behind massive teeth. Every muscle froze, a primordial response to the instinctual knowledge that this was something so much more than an extraordinarily capable fighter in armor, it was a living breathing being that was so much more.

It wasn’t a huge surprise there were no available records on Burnish and their behaviors if there was ever a dolt out in the world who thought studying the Burnish was a good idea they probably were a smoking pile of cinders and ash somewhere. Galo couldn’t even begin to put words to what was happening, the strange encounter indescribable in more ways than one. Maybe he hit his head during the fight, and he was just having strange and colorful visions of Burnish before he blacked out. No, that couldn’t be it, because the weight of the other was all too real, and if it was a mere dream, it was far too vivid for his tastes.

As Galo’s cluttered thoughts spiraled in a brief moment of mentally spacing out, the Burnish seemed to become aware his attention had wandered elsewhere- and a sharp pain came without warning. It was like taping into a live wire, Galo’s limbs convulsing as untapped energy rushed through every inch of his body as his vision whited out. It had bitten him- it was STILL biting him, powerful jaws clamping down on his throat. The teeth had pierced his skin, each incision painful yet mercifully shallow. Galo waited with bated breath for the Burnish’s jaws to spring shut and put a bloody end to its opponent, anticipating the end to come at any moment. Instead, the Burnish held still, the only movement was the jittering of its claws that Galo distantly noticed had moved from his wrists to his exposed shoulders. The distinct scent of burned flesh wafted from the new contact point, melding with the growing odor of blood and sweat.

The Burnish wasn’t hesitating, but it didn’t move to finish him off either. Galo didn’t take any time to puzzle out what the other was thinking, not when a newfound wellspring of adrenaline forced his sore and beaten body into action. Throwing his toned arms around the Burnish’s lithe midsection, securing a grip on the figure above him. The sudden action caught the other off guard, it’s jaws slackening and releasing Galo from its covetous grip. Refusing to waste an opening, he kicked his legs underneath him and used the support to launch forward. Using his full weight to hurtle into the surprised Burnish while also keeping his forearms locked around its waist, Galo hurtled to the ground with the other now trapped beneath him.

The impact was rough, both sliding out across cracked pavement but Galo’s hold ensured their positions had been swapped, the Burnish threat now pinned beneath him in a pseudo-hold-embrace that pinned it’s limbs to its sides. Galo could feel the temperature in the atmosphere dramatically shift, the air growing unbearably arid. The sleek figure underneath him was the epicenter of the sweltering waves of heat, and if Galo hadn’t accrued an impressive number of burns up until now, well. He was making up for it now all at once. Physical restraint was not a sanctioned apprehension technique, but the spur of the moment reaction didn’t account for the protocol drilled into his head, or for a Burnish’s ability of spontaneously combusting. Shit.

The Mad Burnish had been playing with him before, it’s mute coyness only another element of its pleasure batting him around and dragging out what would otherwise be painful, but albeit quick end. Now it was seething, the arced elegant horns losing shape as wicked flame erupted from its helm as the heat somehow ratcheted up several notches. Expecting the entirety of its body to be wreathed in flame, and his by extension- Galo didn’t brace himself to be drowned in embers. Instead, he let out a bellowing cry and bore down on the figure, hands seizing the exposed throat of the Burnish. It was all too familiar to the bite that the Burnish had given him, a cruel and uncompromising grip that refused to waver.

“You can burn me to bits but I’m not going to let you forget who I am!” He shouted, blinking away any evidence of tears as his gloves burned away and his palms were seared next. “I fought with everything I have- can you say the same?” Galo snarled, his heart pounding wildly in his chest. He could feel every bruise and cut throb in time with his frantic pulse, the bite most prominent of all. The sensation muddled his senses, his neck set aflame with pain and...something else. A building sensation had slowly risen within him, the embers of it only further stoked throughout the encounter. It laid unaddressed under the pain, the fear, and ultimately shame of losing, inoffensively nestled deep within in his chest. “You...” he growled, but he lacked the presence of mind to bring the accusation to any form of conclusion. He didn’t know what to do.

His hands slipped. Galo’s white knuckles gently rested on the neck of the figure he had fought, and so desperately cursed mere moments before. His thumbs were still pressed into the divot of the Burnish’s throat, but there was no pressure behind the lingering touch. As his hands slid away from where his grip had initially been, Galo noticed that the perfect umbral crystal plating that made up the Burnish’s exoskeleton had taken on a milky white shade. The marred portion was the shape of his hands, the strange coloration some form of bruising that had begun to form.

“I could burn you.” The sudden interjection or another’s
voice nearly startled Galo out of his skin. Reflexively jolting away, deadly talons enrapt his thighs and stilled him. “To bits, even...” the distorted voice continued, as soft as the wind whistling through trees but with an air of taciturn wisdom that left no room for opposition, only compromise. Galo attempted to jerk away once more, but the Burnish’s claws had sunk into the tissue of his upper legs. No blood had been drawn, but the deadly points were felt and the warmth that transferred through ten sharp digits made their presence known. “And yet, I would not forget you.” The Burnish concluded, sounding oddly somber and yet somehow pleased with the admission.

Galo was still straddling the Mad Burnish, but he felt equally powerless, rendered unable to speak as he absorbed the other’s words. It sent an odd streak of errant panic through him, a wild sensation that made Galo unintentionally squirm in place. Abruptly a rumbling vibration was first felt in his thighs, Galo paling as the sensation traveled further to...other, less convenient places. His mind stalled, but quickly filled in that the source was not himself, thankfully- but the Burnish. The man refused to fully shy away from the sensation, mentally providing the entirely logical reason that it would give his opponent a chance to retaliate and pin him once more.

“That’s nice.” Galo spat sarcastically, nose scrunched with displeasure. His mind was still playing catch up, the weak response prodding the Burnish to...laugh? The rolling vibrations emitting from its chest doubled as the other laughed, a soft sound that lit with an unnatural echo.

“I suppose it is-“ The Mad Burnish retorted back with a sickeningly sweet tone, head tilting again as if it was studying Galo. Its claws were still resting on his thighs, and he found himself staring down at the polished onyx of its hands. This had to be the most words he had ever exchanged with a Burnish. Apprehension and prevention was the extent of his position, there was usually nothing more than him barking threats that never were replied to. Even then Burnish that were caught and brought in stayed fiercely silent, making Galo question if they did rely on verbal communication like the field notes reported.

“Well, good. Because I’m not forgetting this either.” Galo snarked back, eyebrows knitting tight. Calling this getting ‘sidetracked’ was a massive understatement, and he wasn’t going to let his target distract him either longer. With one hand still on the Burnish’s chest, his other slipped away to one of the large pockets on his outer thigh. Normal restraints did little to nothing on the fiery creatures, and typically the emergency response unit suits launched the modified cuffs but... Galo prided himself in always being prepared, and his backup set was finally going to be put to use.

“Oh?” The other replied softly, the raging heat surrounding both of them quelling for a moment. It was like emerging from the heart of the desert, Galo took a greedy breath of fresh air relishing every second of oxygen that wasn’t scorching hot all the way down. His hand had settled on the detainment unit, the solid material already cold without even being activated yet. The restraints could drop a Burnish’s body heat to debilitating lows, wherein producing flames would be impossible to sustain. It was a routine part of capturing them- like muzzling hostile dogs, at least that’s what Kray always likened it to. A safety precaution for the good of both parties, no one got hurt.

‘No one gets hurt…’ Galo forced the mantra to echo in his mind, trying to usher himself along faster into the next step. As he closed his hands fully around one of the cuffs, the deep chill soothed his burned palms and he released a shuddering sigh. It wasn’t borne of relief, but the growing hesitation that made his limbs feel frozen and faulty. Galo’s expression must have been painted clearly across his face because the Burnish’s hands released his thighs and slid up his waist, then resettling on his hipbones. The gesture was gentle, lacking any urgency as if it were perfectly normal and unreasonably familiar. Arms outstretched, the Mad Burnish didn’t seem as dangerous, or deadly as Galo knew their kind to be.

Galo’s muscles tensed for a moment, damage and soreness that scored his body be damned. He was stronger than pain, he would rise above it for the good of humanity. He had to, and he had a wide-open shot- he wouldn’t miss it. Planting one foot firmly on the ground to brace himself, Galo grabbed the Mad Burnish’s wrists in one hand, clapping the restraint device closed in quick succession. The sudden rush of icy air as the cuffs activated made Galo flinch back, using a free hand to shield his eyes. He could hear the air crackle before condensing, the substance secreted by the activated restraints causing the air surrounding it to freeze over.

All of Galo’s sight and senses were obscured by the flurry that formed, hanging like a dense fog bank. Even still on top of the newly captured Burnish, the mist was so thick he could not see the figure before him. For half a heartbeat, the man thought he had succeeded. A sudden flash of light was the only preliminary sign that something was gravely wrong before Galo had the sheerly instinctual sense to leap backward.

The otherworldly shriek that followed would be enough to send a man to his knees, but the blast of hellish heat forced Galo to stumble another five paces back on shaking legs that barely held him up. The surging heat tripled as previously restrained Mad Burnish ignited, a full furry of its flames erupting in a massive column that shot into the heavens. The silhouette of the Mad Burnish was standing upright, powerful body backlit by swirling magenta flames. The chains hung uselessly from its wrists, the restraint broke in two- shit…the device must have been damaged before he had activated it.

The Burnish swung their right arm in a sweeping gesture, a giant arch of flame leaping into the palm of their outstretched hand. There was no cover to dive behind, not that Galo was thinking much beyond a sting of frantic profanities as he kept stumbling back. Wreathed in the fire, the Mad Burnish advanced on him- for each move Galo made was mirrored by the other. His failsafe had failed, his radio comms were trashed with the rest of the emergency response suit, this was going to be it.

The Burnish craned its head up to the heavens and let out another bellowing cry, it’s flames swallowing it completely as it melded into the element it controlled. The flames twisted and expanded, licking at the horizon as if it sought to consume the night sky that hung above it Galo stepped back one more time before the figure could take a new shape. His foot met nothing but the empty air- he had stepped back over the edge of the roof.

Galo plummeted.